Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - October 1, 2010

Opera star pulls a 'Candid Camera'

Mozart goes modern in new production of 'Don Giovanni'

When Charlene McKenna and Deborah Edginton shared a glass of wine on the terrace of Campo di Bocce in Livermore recently, they didn't expect the service to be quite so attentive. When a handsome waiter arrived to see if there was anything he could do for them, he stared a little too long and a little amorously at the two women before breaking out into an aria. The "waiter" was noted baritone Eugene Brancoveanu, star of Livermore Valley Opera's upcoming production of Mozart's "Don Giovanni."

"Opera is so much more exciting, fun and playful than most people imagine," said Livermore Valley Opera Executive Director Sara Nealy, "and we're trying to bring the experience to people in a variety of ways. Eugene could not be a better performer for this kind of activity; he's a talented artist, charismatic, and a great actor -- actually a Tony Award winner."

Don Giovanni (Don Juan in Spanish) is arguably the most notorious ladies' man in literature, theater and film. Brancoveanu was accompanied by videographer Chad Caines and crew from Caines & Associates, an interactive multimedia production company based in San Ramon, who had to hide behind plants and even place a microphone in a bunch of grapes to facilitate stealth filming.

The crew also filmed at First Street Ale House and Uncle Yu's in the Vineyard, where sommelier Nick Laing, an operaphile and singer, wined and dined the crew after the challenging shoot, even pouring a sparkling rose from Venice connected to the Don Giovanni legend.

In one unanticipated scene, a group of women were holding a wedding shower, and Brancoveanu sang to the bride-to-be the same aria that his Don Giovanni character sings to the bride-to-be in the opera as he steals her away from her betrothed.

The Livermore Valley Opera opens its 19th season tomorrow with the contemporary interpretation of the classic Mozart opera, "Don Giovanni." Stage director is Mark Streshinsky, recently named Artistic Director of Berkeley West Edge Opera.

"It's important for LVO to stretch creatively and to expose our audiences to diverse artistic visions," said Nealy. "We believe that a contemporary interpretation of Don Giovanni will help to engage new and younger audiences by making connections with them that are relevant."

She added that the production remains faithful to Mozart's music.

LVO also uses YouTube to present Streshinsky talking in depth about his vision of this production. Both videos can be seen at www.livermorevalleyopera.org.

"Don Giovanni" opens with a gala at 5 p.m. tomorrow, followed by a pre-opera talk at 7 p.m., and the curtain at 8 p.m., at the Bankhead Theater, 2400 First St. in Livermore. It also will be presented at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 9.

Ice Cream & Opera, a Children's Opera Learning Adventure, will take place at 2 p.m., Sundays, Oct. 3 and 10. After the show, children will have an opportunity to go on stage and experience what characters see while performing and meet the director and cast members.

Adult tickets are $39-$64; students 18 years and younger receive $10 off on all days. The gala is $55, which includes appetizers and wine. Call the box office at 373-6800 or visit www.livermoreperformingarts.org.

Included in the ticket price is a pre-opera talk one hour prior to curtain. A traditional artist's reception is held in the lobby immediately following each performance. Some performances will feature a public "after party" at a nearby location with complimentary appetizers and a chance to meet the cast and crew.

--Dolores Fox Ciardelli

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